Thea Musgrave receives RPS Honorary Membership

21 Sep 2022

We are pleased to announce that the composer Thea Musgrave CBE has been made an Honorary Member of the Royal Philharmonic Society in recognition of her remarkable career and outstanding services to music.

RPS Honorary Membership was presented to Thea this week in New York, where she lives. It was presented on behalf of the RPS by Vanessa Reed, President and CEO of New Music USA, at the Manhattan offices of Thea’s publisher Novello & Co, part of the Wise Music Group. You can watch the presentation here:

Since 1826, the RPS has presented Honorary Membership in recognition of those who devote their lives to music and uplift others with it. It was first presented to the composer Weber and subsequent recipients include Mendelssohn, Berlioz, Liszt, Wagner, Brahms, Verdi, Dvorak, Clara Schumann, Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninov, Ravel, Stravinsky, Yehudi Menuhin, Pierre Boulez, Janet Baker and more recently Evelyn Glennie, George Benjamin, Marin Alsop, Stephen Sondheim, and Sarah Connolly.

At the presentation, the following citation was read by Vanessa Reed, on behalf of the RPS Board and Council:

‘Born in 1928, and still hard at work writing music 94 years later, Thea is a musical icon. Over a remarkable international career, Thea has created a body of work bursting with energy, ready to leap off the page and seize our imagination. Her music abounds with such style and sophistication, constantly asking fresh and daring questions of musical forms and traditions. She lures us in by suffusing her music with so much of the world we know, drawing in particular on paintings, poems, myths and her Scottish heritage as the starting point for so many of her musical voyages.

She has long been beguiled by the inherent theatre of the concert hall, compelling soloists and ensembles to assume new formations, making audiences think anew about what we are witnessing onstage – and our part in it. This was evident in her thrilling Clarinet Concerto, proudly commissioned by the Royal Philharmonic Society in 1969. In presenting Honorary Membership to Thea, the RPS invites performers and audiences to delve into the extraordinary canon she has gifted us, teeming with treasure: athletic and adventurous for its players; atmospheric, suspenseful and cinematic for its listeners.’

Annually, the RPS welcomes nominations for Honorary Membership from RPS Members and colleagues across the music profession. Recipients are decided upon by the RPS Board of Trustees and advisory Council. A full list of those who have received Honorary Membership from 1826 to the present day can be found here.

Vanessa Reed and Thea Musgrave


Born in Scotland, Thea studied at the University of Edinburgh and the Paris Conservatoire under Nadia Boulanger and later, with Aaron Copland at Tanglewood. Over seven decades she has produced unique works for the wide array of BBC Choirs and Orchestras, the RSNO, the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra, the Royal Opera House, Scottish Opera, and more recently the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra.

A pioneering feature of many of her scores is the incorporation of physical movement by the soloists and orchestral musicians into their playing to heighten the theatre of the performance – a device emulated by many other composers in the decades since. Notable works include the Concerto for Orchestra (1967), Space Play (1974), her seminal opera Mary, Queen of Scots (1977), The Seasons (1988), and Songs for a Winter’s Evening (1995). Among her circle of friends and colleagues were Richard Rodney Bennett (1936-2012), Elizabeth Lutyens (1906-1983) and Elizabeth Maconchy (1907-1994) whose daughter Nicola LeFanu she tutored privately. As a result of a decades-long friendship with Nicholas Daniel, she has created an unparalleled body of modern works for the oboe. She has received several fellowships, Awards and Honours, including IVORs Award, a CBE (2002) and the Queen’s Medal for Music.